Yet, it seems to me sometimes that even our ideal of God changes with the fleeting years. When we were young, and because He was thus presented to us by our spiritual pastors and masters, we figured Him as some tragically revengeful elderly gentleman, who appeared to show His love for us by always being exceedingly vindictive. Then when Fate, as it were, thrust us from the confines of our homes into the storm of life alone, we came to think of the God-Ideal in blind anger. We cried that He was dead, or deaf; that He was not a God of Love at all, but cruel . . . more cruel than Mankind. Sometimes we denied that He had ever existed at all; that all the Church told us about Him was so much “fudge,” and that Heaven and Hell, the punishment of Sin, the reward of Virtue, were all part of the Great Human Hoax by which Man is cheated and ensnared. “We will be hoaxed no more!” we cried, little realising that this is invariably the Second Stage along the road by which thinking men approaches God.
The Third Stage, when it came, found us older, wiser, far less inclined to cry “Damn” in the face of the Angels. We began to realise that through pain we had become purified; through hardship we had become kind; through suffering, and in the silence of our own thoughts we had become wise; through our inner-loneliness–that inner-loneliness which is part of the “cross” which each man carries with him through Life, we had found the blind necessity of God.
And in this fashion he returns to us. He is not the same God as of old (we listen to the pictures of this Old God as He is so often described from the pulpit, in contemptuous amazement, tinged by disdain), but a far greater God than He–greater, for the reason that we have become greater too. We no longer seek to find Him in our hours of happiness–the only hours when, long ago, we sought to feel His presence. We know that we shall only find Him in our hours of loneliness, in our hours of desolation, in our hours of black despair. Now at last we realise that God is not some Deity apart, but some spirit within us, within every man and woman whose “vision” is turned towards the stars. He is the “Dream” which is clearer to us than reality, none the less clear because it is the “Dream” which never in life comes true. He belongs to us and to the whole world. He is everywhere, yet nowhere. He is the “soul” in Man, the silent message in beauty, the miracle in all Nature. He is not a Divinity, living in some far off bourne we call the sky. He is just that “spirit” in all men’s hearts which is the spirit of their self-sacrifice, of their charity, of their loving kindness, of their honesty, their uprightness and their truth. It is the “spirit” which, if men be Immortal, will surely live on and on for ever. Nothing else is worthy immortality.